Some months ago

I started writing a kind of electronic diary two years ago. I don’t write every day, but whenever I feel like it, and up to today, I have around 180 files referring to days I felt like sharing what was up.

 

Going back to it is a mesmerizing experience. I feel like an anthropologist going through somebody’s mind and ideas, smiling at the simple narrative and frowning at the endless heartbreaks.

I guess it’s a good way to decipher yourself and dissect your past decisions. For now, I’ll keep it to myself because I know this is a place where I can really talk freely. But I’ll share some pieces of it that resonated.

 

If I die, of course, anyone near my computer is welcome to take a peak. Pieces of life of a western young woman in the 21st century.

 

March, 20th, 2015

So today was the eclipse. I woke up around 7:30, and finally stood up at 7:50. I am glad my alarm rang and my phone didn’t just died during the night. I prepared myself and after a quick smoothie, I decided to take all my stuff and here I was on my bike. Direction the East Dunes park. The weather was really grey but I was not too worried about it. The weather changes really fast and what can seem like a grey and boring day can sometimes become a really lucky one.

I went through the forest park of the Hague, in front of the, yet-to-be, American ambassy and found the entrance of the park. Same way I used before, I know the place. It was still quite an exercice to go there.

I arrived at this little hill in the « Dunes Park » and I put my bike there, excited. I climbed up the stairs and found a cosy place to set up my material. I look up at the sky and watched the time. It was 9:30, it should begin. And so did the waiting game. I sat and look at this grey sky. At some places, it got lighter and I looked for the sun but nothing appeared.

A man, in his fifties, arrived on the side and started talking to me in Dutch. I apologized and we continued in English. He decided to stay for a while and we talked. He’s a musician, (cello) and travelled a lot. Despite this fact, he always come back in The Hague and often coms to this park. He really liked playing in Italy and likes composers like Olivier Messiaen, rather than Einaudi. Messiaen is more challenging and he inspires his music from the songs of birds. He asked me if I came in the Netherlands knowing anyone. I tell him that no, I had no family or friends here. He told me it’ll come.

We stayed there, we looked at the sky in silence. After a while, it gold colder and colder and he decided to go home. He told me he admired my tenacity as a young person. We saluted each other and there he went.

Some minutes after, a woman arrived and started talking to me. Same ritual and we continued in English. She was an Art teacher, teaching to kids from 14 to 18. She was a perfectionist and got exhausted at a point where she had to take a one week break from work. She seemed really passionate about her job and advised me to go see a ballet in the Hague. She likes Paris, Amsterdam and often goes to small villages in France.
We talked about what’s around, and we noticed how the environment changes. Even though we had absolutely no visual of the sun, we noticed the atmosphere getting darker and the birds stopped singing. This was instead really calm, and especially colder. I shivered and she offered me some of her hot tea.
She really was a warm person. Then, little by little, the sky got lighter, birds started singing again and I was not shivering to death anymore. The peak hour past and there was little hope to see an actual eclipse. She decided to go home and we said goodbye.

Another man with his camera arrives shortly after, looked at my material and in a very neutral way told me that the peak hour is over. I told him I’d stay in case there might be an improvement but he shrugged and left.

I considered going home. I was cold, and I didn’t want to get sick before exams. But I considered it seriously and I decided otherwise. An eclipse is not that rare but this is not common either. I just had to wait 30 more minutes till the official end of the eclipse, and I would rather wait 30 minutes more than 6 years til the next eclipse.
I looked at the sky, and moved around not to be too cold.
Then suddenly, I saw it. It was not in the direction I expected. I jumped on my camera and pointed it at the sky. I lost sight of the sun but I fount it again and started triggering with my camera. When I saw that the filter was useless with such a diffuse light, I said fuck it and removed it. I looked at it with my eyes, ecstatic, and I shot tons of pictures. The more I took, the more I realize that the sun was actually getting out of frame pretty quickly. No wonder I didn’t expect the sun to be in a precise direction. What comforted me is that I looked at the right direction at the beginning.

The bit of eclipse that I saw was only a tiny bit of Moon kissing the sun a farewell goodbye. But still, it was a reward big enough to my eyes.

I biked 10km, stayed 2:30 hours in the cold and persisted and I finally got to see it. The pictures that I got where not a blast but it convinced me to try harder next time. Because there will be a next time!
At the end, when the moon completely left, I let my eyes get wet. I was tired, cold but I got to see it. I didn’t give up and even though it was a tiny bit, I got to experience it.
And it showed me that no matter how naive I may seem, I want to be persistant in what I do and not give up.

I came back home with a big smile on my face while biking and the long bike home warmed me up in no time.

I saw an eclipse today.

 

March, 7th, 2015.

« What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have. »

Marina Keegan, she died four days after graduating from college.

« But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…” »

« Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay. »

 

Friday, April, 17th, 2015

Yesterday, I was playing with the cat, along the road that takes me to Centraal Station. The sun was shining and it was a warm afternoon.

I finally met the owner of the cat. I saw the reflection of a bald man in the window and he appeared on my right. He smiled to me and I smiled back. I left with a « fine daag » and he answered something I didn’t understand.

But I am glad the cat has a nice owner.

 

And one year ago.

 

Tuesday, 10th, November 2015

Close to midnight.

Today’s Ted Talk is about Space. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve dealt with the mysteries of space and the greatness of stars. Did I reach an overdose with this summer? Not too sure.

The name is Jill Tarter, radio astronomer.

« We actually, as humans, have this very, very intimate connection with the cosmos. If you think about the molecules of hemoglobin in your blood, there’s a lot of iron there, and that iron – in the hemoglobin molecule was created – it was manufactured in nucleosynthesis. Inside a massive star that blew up statistically about 8 billion years ago. So inside you are the remains of a stellar explosion.

[…] Absolutely, you are made of stardust. Everything that we know of is made of stardust, and without the stars, and without the long history of the universe evolving to form galaxies and stars, there wouldn’t be us. If we got that concept in our minds – that we’re made of stardust – and we could take a few moments in our day to think on that cosmic scale, to sort of step back and take a look at the big picture, to see that Earth is just one tiny, little planet in the corner of one small galaxy in a very, very big universe, I think that would help us to understand that really, all of us here on earth, we’re all the same when compared with something else out there in the cosmos. »

I’ll be honest, it does feel like one of these cheesy posts you could find on Tumblr screaming ‘you’re made of stardust’ for the sake of it. But looking at the bigger picture, it is very true, we’re all made of the same stuff. I went to a lecture of Culture of Africa today, and the lecturer was talking about South Africa, showing some pictures of bus stops arranged in such a way that everyone would be divided following their skin colour. The entire city of Johannesburg has been created in the 19th century with the idea in mind on how to separate people, depending on their social status, skin colour and so on. This is amazing how many lines we are able to draw between us when looking at a small scale, while we should honestly all be holding onto each other when looking at how vast the world is, and how fucking little and insignificant we’re on our own.

Anyway, my jaw hurts less and even though eating is still painful, I cannot help but cheer every time being like: “It hurts WAY less than two days ago, yay!”. The scarring is on its way as well, even though it’s a bit slow. I think I’ll keep a nice mark on my chin.

Looking back at this week of physical pain (it sounds very dramatic, I know), I admire how well it kept me away from ‘mental pain’ or any of the doubts/things that were annoying me in the past few weeks. Not saying I should go and knock myself down regularly to deal better with life but hey, I’m trying to find something positive here. But as the physical pain, the burden gets a bit heavier with the day and doesn’t matter how positive I start the day, I always end it up feeling heavy and down. Even when I put my face on my pillow to sleep, gravity pulls me down and every muscle in my jaw seems to weight ten times more. Same for my feelings, they decide to bury themselves into the cushion, like attracted by some mysterious force that’s ready to engulf me every night.

I visited a tattoo shop this morning to talk about some projects that I had. I’m sorry mom, I’m sure you won’t be too happy to learn about that but life is too short not to do things because of others. This is what I say now but I know that very quickly I’ll find excuses to justify myself towards people’s judgments, people whose judgments often mean nothing and yet, I’m ready to bow to them. C’est la vie.

This is making me smile so many times during the day. I have ‘good advices’, ‘good ideas’ (or so I think) but I cannot apply them to myself. I know what I should be doing, I know what my reaction should be -most of the time- and I’m the first one to deviate from them. It’s a living irony.

I should write in the morning, I have more ‘joie de vivre’.

I’d say try to do the same. It’s very therapeutic and mind opening.

And things need to be voiced out sometimes, overwise they just rot in you and it gets toxic. We all need some fresh air.

Some snaps before the busy times come in

 

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class to Japanese-English linguistics where this a mistake in every sentence :3
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yes, four an hour, number of face palms during this class
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piece of french restaurant where I’m now teaching french once a week (it’s a long story)
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my desk
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after the rain
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some food for thoughts (and for the stomach)

 

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glimpse at the station

 

 

A piece of today

I got given some first assignments. Two pages on Chinese ethnic groups language policy, with an emphasis on the autonomous region of Mongolia in China  and one page on the limitation/bias one’s language can induce in everyday life. The courses are European and Asian languages and cultures, hence the linguistic approach on the papers.

today’s pictures are sponsored by my visit to nearby temples, with no connection to Mongol linguistic policies…

It does sound kind of scary because these will be the first pieces of assignments I’ll be writing in Japanese. I laid out the subjects I wanted to talk about in English, very briefly and I’ll try to directly write in Japanese to avoid the terrible ‘translated’ essay style. There are no sources required for those, so there is no pressure to find precise academic material. I just have to get out of my head smart ideas and phrase them in Japanese. A challenge I am kind of excited for, even though I have barely a week to write them and this week will be very busy because my mom is coming (hi mom, soon you’ll be on the other side of the blog, or the globe, either way works anyway!).
So tomorrow it will be… !

I was a little bit less lost this week, or rather I was lost in different subjects than last week. It was also a bit harder to keep the curiosity of the first weeks going on and it can be kind of soothing to close my eyes when a ramble of Japanese goes through my ears. But I need to be strong and do my best to stay awake and extract some meaning out of these words.
Even during a 20mn Chinese documentary with Japanese subtitles.

see it as a metaphor of students watching the documentary in class. i’m the one behind that’s trying to fusion with moss out of despair

My, those were intense 20 minutes.

I think my eyebrows have never dance that much for a long time. I was constantly frowning/looking confused and there must have been a slight ounce of exhaustion through my eyes in the end. Ahah, I really tried.
But my interest for China is growing when looking through the glass of all the ethnic groups the country is made of, so that’s good. I’m happy with that! Great thing because I have seven days to come up with two pages on it.

my working situation to kill 4 hours between 2 classes and trying to get inspiration on linguistic policies in east asia

photographs give me a second breath

Went and developed some pictures today. Took only one hour at a new place I tried, and I now regret sending my first roll to another shop. The other shop said it would take two weeks.

 

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and I got punished for putting 35mm hood on 24mm lenses

I picked up the pictures after class, and was able to look at them on my computer and damn, the quality of these Japanese scanners. The file is really small so not really detailed but the colours are so good. Even the cheapest of film looks magnificent and has deep black.

 

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look at that nice contrast
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did a bit of hiking there
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I don’t know if this modern society and my generation of self-centered people or just below-the-earth-self-esteem-level that makes me obsessed with pictures of myself but there is one that came up that I like a lot.

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Looking at it, I don’t really like the expression I have and I’d say I look pretty dumb on it, but I love the atmosphere. The grain of the picture reminds me old photographs of the 80s or 90s.

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So I’m happy I have something to hold on, into the form of pixels and I can safely tell myself « this is me, see, you don’t have to hate yourself everyday, you’re nice here. »

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I feel guilty posting pictures of myself and selfies always take me through an inner battle where I ponder or not to make it public. Which I know is for the most part useless worry, but worry that is there nonetheless.

 

Since I understood that identity is partly shaped by outside perception and partly shaped by one’s intentions, I know I still have a hold onto who I am and I’m not just the passive recipient of what people perceive of me (or what I think they’re thinking)(hello low self-esteem, please continue making me feel miserable.)

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So I’ll hold onto pictures of me, where I like a bit of myself. And I can pretend I come from some previous decades where I know little enough to dare think it was a bit more worry-free.

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I think I may be fantasizing a careless youth.

thoughts about being a loner

I’m a loner and I know it. I’ve come to accept and appreciate it.

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To me, it is a synonym of liberty and independence. I don’t depend on anyone to make choices and decisions, it is all up to me to do or not do something. No unpredictable element in the equation, I do the math as I go along.

 

I have never really thought of what it must seem like from the outside and today I got a taste of it. I didn’t think I seemed as unapproachable (more in like, ‘she doesn’t seem like she wants anyone to hang out with her’) as I was but I have to face it. I understand that this is what it seems like.

 

I’m coming onto this exchange with a suitcase of experience and a year of « do and don’t » firmly pressed onto my brain. I know my way around things and unfortunately, I did become this bitter person that does not get as excited as newcomers since I’ve « already seen it. » So I’ve built this nice image of this French loner that can speak Japanese and does things on her own, and y’a know, we better let her because she seems like she has no interests in hanging there.

 

Which I did not interpret like that. I was more eager to do things on the next level. I’m looking forward travelling in East Asia and do not put as much importance on Japan as I used to. I’ve seen most of the big cities (even though, there is much left to discover) and I kind of shrug maybe a bit heartlessly the idea of seeing other Japanese cities. It doesn’t coordinate well with the ideas of other exchange students and I guess I found it easier to distance myself rather than be that person « Tokyo? Yeah, not a big fan, not sure it’s worth going there » when it could be someone’s else dream.

 

I don’t know, I feel like I’d be the perfect party pooper because I cannot seem to get excited for what I used to get excited about 3 years ago.

 

I guess I need to let it go? But at the same time, I cannot put away the fact that I want to speak Japanese and use what I learned. After all, came all the way through here to be immersed in Japan, not in an international expat settings… I guess I came with a different set of expectations.

 

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I was thinking about that lately. What do I like about Japan? There is a lot I criticize and university gives me a hard time to free my mind and let some positive things come through my mood filter.

I guess the atmosphere, in general, has something special. This way of living (even though a lot of what I loved in this ‘harmonious society’ hides ugly, ugly personal sacrifices) where everything seems to flow perfectly together, where service is smooth and smiles are thrown to customers.

Maybe what touches me the most is how people are ready to get out of their way for others. I was walking around and walked up some mountains to visit a temple. A working monk who was gathering some wood sticks stopped to take the time to show me around the temple, ensuring I would see the best view, understand the history of the place and so on. He went to pick up a picture that recently came out in the newspapers. An old picture found from WW2 of one of the statues of the temple before the bomb exploded in Nagasaki. He also gave me some of the nuts he gathered and put outside to dry. He told me to wait a few weeks for them to dry and then eat them.

 

He could have just said hello and go on with his work. But he stopped, took the courage to see if I was speaking Japanese and went totally out of his way to share his time.

Same thing happened to a further temple. A lady saw me, surprised to find someone in this remote area (in one of the valleys of the numerous hills of Nagasaki) and she brought me to a little cave where a shrine was erected. Water was coming out of the rock and she told me that the temple had completely burned down because of the atomic bomb, and the damage done to the rock made the water came out. Since there was water shortage after the bomb, the city was dying of thirst and many people walked up the mountain to look for water. Most of them died along the way or before reaching the remaining of the temple. The bones were gathered and the temple was rebuilt, with many more souls to remember.

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Nagasaki is full of history, may it be from hundreds of years ago or decades. It never stops.

 

These people went out of their way for a stranger, sharing a smile and a few words to a totally different culture.

This is what I love and this is a concept that always surprises me. It is common to be treated as a rarity here, and be different just for not being Asian*. May it be through positive discrimination (where your Japanese is the most wonderful thing ever heard just by the sound of your skewed « konnichiha ») or negative one (if you thought people didn’t sit next to you in the train because they’re nice, think again)(or if they just stare and refuse to talk to you/acknowledge you can speak Japanese), it is sometimes rare to experience an interaction that feels genuine.

I think that now that I can speak Japanese better day by day, I am craving these kinds of experience even more. I want to talk to people about their stories, the surroundings, without mentioning my « non-Asianness » or where I’m from* or how well I’m holding chopsticks.

 

I want to get past that stage and have real interactions. Even though courses in Japanese are harsh, I am trying to soak up the vocabulary learned and it’s a giant satisfaction to remember the words and use them. (and sound very smart when you’re talking about the ‘policy of that government’ or even the ‘influence of national language on minor ethnic groups’)(not that I talk about it often but y’a know, in case of!)

 

So it does feel like I am here with different expectations and it is weighing me down in regards to the other exchange students. I’m not the fun French to hang out with and I look very distant.

 

You can’t satisfy everyone but I guess I could work a bit on my social side because having friends won’t hurt uh? And Japanese friends are great, but they won’t relate 100% to what it is to live in Japan as a foreigner, and some compassion might not hurt.

 

Now I just need to be a bit more open and maybe also more forgiving. I cannot hold people to expectations I myself do not fill, and I need to remember that people are people.

No one is perfect, and you gotta embrace what works and what doesn’t.

 

Without pushing away the world when it doesn’t work.

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and embracing what the world throws at you (spoiler: countless hours of allergies)

 

*how nice is it to have the tables turned uh? When we put people apart for not being white?  When we blame it on people not ‘integrating’ in Western society and we hold them to expectations that they do not meet to easily point the finger?

not happy, guess i need to deal with ‘meh’ standard

the wave I was surfing on is slowly dying again and here I am with a bit of ingratitude and unsatisfaction.

 

 

I’m not really happy. University seems like a joke, and a bad one. The courses in Japanese are now getting serious and even though they are really interesting, they are hard to follow. It requires a focus of 1h30 without breaks and it’s a continuous flow of words and unknown vocabulary crashing into my mind.

When it’s about known subject, it is alright and I can kind of guess. Dutch Culture for now is focusing on European history, and I understand not too badly. European Languages is so far alright, the second class being about the French language (with a professor that was speaking French and was delighted to let some French words flow)(and who apparently ‘never seemed so happy’ and he even talked about the fact that he could speak French with a student in another class ahah). Let’s see how it’ll be later on, but I’m trying!

The hardest is about Asian Languages and Cultures. The teacher is amazing, but the subject totally unknown. Today was about Chinese ethnicities and all the language policies/concepts China has been going through. I have a vague idea of what is going on with Chinese ethnicities but it is really, only the big picture. I was confronted today with the fact that there were 55 ethnicities in China, representing 8% of the population (the major one being the Hans, making up the rest) and as many languages etc… The names of each ethnicities kind of change in Japanese and I spent a great deal of time trying to understand each of them. Some of the handouts given as well could have been straight up Chinese too because of the number of kanji.

 

It’s really hard to translate and to follow the course at the same time. But I knew it when I took the course so I’ll just suck it up.

 

The sad thing is that the courses in Japanese are way more interesting than the courses in Japanese, which are dumbed down with a robotic teacher that speaks for 90mn without any intonations and no one understands what they say. I am very unhappy with the fact that one of them seems to be very bothered that I asked the course to be as indicated, in English. As a result, he just stares at me during 90mn, repeating the same information (about doing survey research, amazing) in different ways and making us watch the same 90s video about survey research in England. None of the Japanese students understand a thing and I am just exasperated. I’m not hiding it and I think we are both getting angry at each other.

He needs to take on his responsibility. If he said his course was in English, it will be in damn English. Do what you say damnit.

 

In addition, I understand that the things making me unhappy can seem a bit futile and easily put aside, but I find it hard to push it away really. I understood the fact that I sound like the grumpy/overstressed student and I feel like it has pushed away many other exchange students. Or if it has not, I receive bitter comments about the subject of my worries, and it doesn’t make things better.

 

I want to let go but I am not here to not completely care either. I can’t be completely detached because I still need to pass these courses. The other exchange students can allow themselves to fail their 3 courses, but I need to pass 8 to validate this semester. And I can’t remove this out of my mind when I am told that I worry for nothing and am basically ruining everyone’s mind. What I do now is that I shut up and go on living my life on my own, but I’m just eating up the anxiety and I let it flourish inside of me. I just end up feeling sick, tired and not amused.

 

 

Putting things and ideas into words is good for the mind, so I’ll really try my best to keep my rants and my negative impressions onto this blog.

 

 

My, it is complicated. I receive sweet words and support but I can’t help brushing them away like if I didn’t deserve it.

It feels like I am consciously putting myself into a hole, telling people about it and eventually adding: « by the way, no one helps me please, let me die here while I complain and you watch. »

 

Which is not what I want to be doing, but it feels like I’m well into that process.

 

 

Can someone come and help my self-esteem please?

 

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before i drown myself in kinako dango pls